FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Members of the Fort Leonard Wood and surrounding communities had the opportunity to get hands-on with history at an Archaeology Month presentation held Wednesday at Colyer Park.
During the event, organized by archaeologists and natural resource specialists from the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division, participants learned about the people who occupied the land here before the Army, through prehistoric weapons demonstrations, mock excavation sites, displays featuring artifacts found in local archaeological sites and more.
The purpose of the outreach event was to inform people about the cultural resources program here and raise awareness about cultural resources and the importance of protecting archaeological sites on the installation, said archaeologist Stephanie Nutt, who helped plan the event.
“Most people realize the Army has been here since World War II, but not many know what was here before that,” she said. “Day to day, we are focused on our military training mission, so this was a good opportunity to talk about the history of these lands before the installation came.”
Attendees were given the opportunity to try their hand at using an atlatl – a prehistoric tool used for throwing spears – at a target, learn about and practice drawing their own ancient rock art and bring in their own artifacts for expert identification.
“The atlatl was an important tool in prehistory, and they’re also really fun to throw,” said prehistoric archaeologist Andrew Phillips, who managed the demonstration. “I think it’s really interesting to those who have never seen one because it is a tool that was used by prehistoric people to hunt animals as far back as 17,000 years ago.”
The Missouri Department of Conservation was also on hand to demonstrate flint knapping.
Buckets of dirt, shovels and sifters were available for the younger guests to “dig” for artifacts and get a sense of how archaeologists screen for them. The event was a favorite of Warren and Willow Sinden, whose grandparents, local residents Shinae and Clay Young, brought for the experience of learning about nature and history.
“We are always looking for events or something we can take them to,” Shinae said. “The kids really appreciate (these types of activities). Willow found a little gold coin and an artifact.”
The hands-on experience is critical to learning, especially in children, according to Nutt, because it allows them to think beyond the object itself and analyze what the artifact says about the person who used it – which is the primary goal of archaeology. That’s why it was important for her team to have such a variety of experiences available, she said.
“It leads them to really understanding why archaeologists do what they do, and that it’s not just about the cool things they find,” Nutt added.
For more information about archaeology on Fort Leonard Wood, contact the Cultural Resources Program at 573.596.7607. See more photos from the event on the Fort Leonard Wood Flickr page.